Islamabad, September 09, 2015 (PPI-OT): The sixth meeting of the EU-Pakistan Joint Commission was held in Brussels on 8 September 2015 under the Co-chairmanship of on the Pakistani side Mr Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and on the EU-side Mr Ugo Astuto, Managing Director a.i. for Asia and the Pacific, European External Action Service.
The two sides reaffirmed the EU-Pakistan relationship and discussed progress made, as well as outstanding issues, in the implementation of the EU-Pakistan 5-year Engagement Plan, encompassing a broad range of areas including political dialogue, security and counter-terrorism, human rights, migration, trade and development cooperation. They looked forward to further strengthening the dialogue and cooperation in the coming year, including a Political Dialogue, which should be followed by a ministerial level EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.
The two sides discussed critical issues in the field of human rights. The EU side expressed its concern over issues such as the lifting of the moratorium on death penalty executions and their pace, and the transfer of civilian cases to military courts. Concerns were also expressed by the EU on freedom of expression, the rights of people belonging to minorities and women’s rights.
The EU welcomed the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission and called for its active engagement. On election reforms, the EU welcomed the reform process underway by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The EU confirmed its commitment to support further strengthening and deepening of democracy in Pakistan and encouraged the adoption of comprehensive electoral reforms ahead of the next general elections. To this end, the EU reiterated its commitment to offer technical assistance to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Federal and Provincial Assemblies.
The growing economic ties were discussed and the two sides took note of the considerable increase in bilateral trade in 2014, while stressing that further opportunities for trade and investment between the EU and Pakistan should be explored, in order to create growth and jobs. They emphasized the role of the private sector and agreed to explore possibilities to strengthen the dialogue between Pakistan and EU businesses. They noted that the main factor behind the increase in Pakistan’s exports to the EU was the award of GSP+.
While appreciating progress made in the field of labour rights, the EU called for stepping up efforts on implementing international commitments on human rights as embedded in the GSP+ obligations. In response to EU requests for tangible progress on a number of issues, including the submission of outstanding reports to international monitoring bodies, Pakistan reiterated its commitment to continue implementation of the 27 international conventions covered by the scheme and to submit the four pending reports to the UN monitoring bodies before the end of 2015. Both sides decided to continue this close dialogue to create the conditions for effective implementation and progress for Pakistani society.
On security and counter terrorism they took note of the EU-Pakistan CT dialogue held in February 2015. They expressed their commitment to international cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed to explore ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation, initiatives and exchange of best practices in areas such as criminal justice and rule of law, law enforcement/security, countering financing of terrorism and countering violent extremism.
The EU side appreciated the seriousness of the terrorist threat Pakistan faces and acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts to counter it. The EU side also called on Pakistan to take effective measures to prevent hate speech, take strict action against terrorist organizations, undertake effective steps against religious persecution, and register and regulate madrassas. The two sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the EU-Pakistan Dialogue on Disarmament and Non-proliferation on 9 December 2015 in Brussels.
The two sides discussed preparations for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris and pledged to work together towards reaching an ambitious, comprehensive, equitable and binding UN climate agreement. They also agreed on concrete steps to be taken in order to explore opportunities for further cooperation in the field of energy, including working toward a dedicated Energy Dialogue.
On migration, they welcomed the meeting of the Joint Readmission Committee in June 2015. They agreed to strengthen efforts to ensure full implementation of the EU-Pakistan readmission agreement. On development cooperation, implementation of ongoing programmes and the new EU Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for 2014-20 were discussed.
Under the new MIP, the EU has committed to provide assistance to Pakistan amounting to EURO 653 million to support rural development; education; and good governance, human rights and rule of law. In this respect the two sides agreed to work closely together to ensure a smooth implementation of the assistance in all three focal areas, in full accordance with internationally recognized aid principles.
They also agreed to explore further the potential for cooperation on science and technology under the Horizon 2020 programme and highlighted opportunities for cooperation on higher education in the context of Erasmus+. The two sides also agreed to explore the possibility of new initiatives in anti-narcotics and water management, especially floods. The two sides also discussed regional political developments, including the situation in Afghanistan and the region.
The Joint Commission is the main forum to review the implementation of the EU-Pakistan 5-year Engagement Plan, which was adopted in 2012. With the common goal of building a partnership for peace and development rooted in shared values, principles and commitments, the Engagement Plan aims to promote cooperation and expand the partnership between the EU and Pakistan on a wide range of issues.
The Joint Commission was preceded on 7 September 2015 by meetings of three subgroups. The trade subgroup was co-chaired by the Ms Diana Acconcia, Deputy Head of Unit in DG TRADE, European Commission and Ms Robina Athar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce.
The subgroup on governance and human rights was co-chaired by Ms Anette Mandler, Head of Division in the European External Action Service and Mr Nadeem Riyaz, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The subgroup on development and cooperation was co-chaired by Mr Jorge De La Cabelleria, Head of Unit in DG DEVCO, European Commission and Ms Anjum Assad Amin, Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs Division, Ministry of Finance. The next meeting of the Joint Commission will be held in Islamabad in 2016.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan